Canada Wide Labour Relations Blog

No discussion of monetary items yet

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Your negotiations team met with representatives of the employer, the Government of Alberta, on March 4 and 5. In this session, there was no discussion of any monetary items including wage raises; the employer’s proposal for market adjustments (reclassifications); shift differentials; and overtime. It is normal practice to deal with non-monetary items first and to discuss monetary items later. We signed off on unopened articles and on some housekeeping changes to other articles in the collective agreement. We also signed off on more substantive changes to the following articles:
  • Article 13, Attendance: 13.01 (b), which deals with non-shift workers being absent. These employees can now report their absence “as soon as possible but, in any event, no later than thirty (30) minutes after the normal starting time.”
  • Article 16, Hours of Work: 16:07 inserts a new item that says: “The Employer shall not change an Employee’s shift schedule where it results in the Employee’s scheduled start and end times being changed with less than five (5) days’ notice, unless the change is due to an emergency or mutually agreed between the Employee and the Employer.”
  • Article 38, Special Leave: Updates item 38.01 (b), which deals with bereavement leave, adding that the time can be taken off around the time of death and/or funeral, instead of just around the time of the funeral.
The housekeeping changes, in which we agreed to minor updates to the language in some articles, included the following articles:
  • Article 7, Personal File;
  • Article 8, Union Membership and Dues Check-Off;
  • Article 21, Standby Pay;
  • Article 30, Institutional Fire Prevention and Control Firefighters Schedule of Remuneration;
  • Article 40, Adoption/Parental Leave;
  • Article 40A, Maternity Leave;
  • Article 45, Pay Administration;
  • Article 46, Leave Without Pay
  • Article 51, Recruitment, Selection and Appointment;
  • Article 55, Compassionate Care Leave; and
  • Letter of Understanding #2 – Lookouts;
To see a list of the unopened articles, click here. The next round of talks has been scheduled for March 24 and 25. Further negotiations are scheduled for April 1 and 2 and April 21 and 22. To read the full ingoing proposals from the union and the employer, please click here. Your Government Services Bargaining Committee (GSBC)
  https://www.aupe.org/news/news-and-updates/bargaining-update-gsbc-progress-made-some-articles

More than 1,000 teacher positions in Alberta could be cut following the latest provincial budget, says the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA).

A report by the ATA shows schools across the province will have about $27 million less to work with in operating expenses in 2020-21 compared to 2018-19. It also says maintaining current levels of funding while enrollment rises will increase class sizes in upcoming years.

After the 2019 budget came out, the Calgary Board of Education said it would have to lay off 317 teachers on temporary contracts before it was able to access infrastructure money to cover shortfalls. ATA president Jason Schilling said that number shows an indication that close to 1,400 teaching positions will be lost following the 2020 budget.

“There’s still shortfalls in this budget,” said Schilling. “Based on that number of 300 teachers lost in Calgary, looking at what other boards had to say in other areas of the province and potential shortfalls, our guess would be close to 1,400 positions lost.”

The total operating expense for K-12 education in Alberta is forecasted to be $8.3 billion in 2020-21, up from $8.2 billion in 2019-20.

The maintained operating expenses in the coming years is coming partly due to an increase in “own-source” reserve funding. School jurisdictions are being asked to provide an additional $121 million in 2020-21, which could include relying on rainy-day funds, facility rentals or even vending machine profits.

The ATA report says school boards are being asked to maintain staffing levels and have been authorized to use reserve funds and to increase parent fees that were previously capped under the former NDP government.

Colin Aitchison, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, said the province has maintained education at record levels. He also noted Alberta has one of the best-funded education systems in the country and school boards should prioritize their students education.

“We expect all boards to prioritize the educational experience of our students and to minimize impacts on front-line staff and teachers,” said Aitchison. “Locally elected trustees will continue to be accountable to parents for their decisions.”

Trisha Estabrooks, chairwoman of the board at Edmonton Public Schools, said she wouldn’t speculate if any teaching positions would be cut from her board in upcoming years.

“These are people’s jobs, these are people’s lives and I am not prepared in any way to speculate about job loss at this point,” said Estabrooks.

She said administration has already had to use a large portion of its funding reserves to cover cuts from the 2019 budget.

“Edmonton public depleted and spent most of our reserves. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a board across this province that hasn’t dipped into their reserves in a significant way to accommodate the last budget back in the fall,” said Estabrooks.

She said she is scheduled to meet with officials from Alberta Education Wednesday to get clarifications on a number of different aspects of the most recent budget.

“We do still have many questions and we’re looking forward to future meetings with the government to try to figure some of this out.”

Edmonton Catholic Schools spokeswoman Lori Nagy said the division is currently working on its 2020-21 budget and won’t be able to make any decisions on staffing until after it is completed. She said the board of trustees is scheduled to review that budget at the end of May.

https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/teaching-positions-in-jeopardy-over-funding-in-latest-budget-alberta-teachers-association/

Members of PSAC, Canada’s largest public service union, held rallies and sit-ins across the country to mark the fourth anniversary of Phoenix and the lack of new collective agreements.

In the midst of rallies and sit-ins across Canada, the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s second largest bargaining unit, the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) announced they had filed a bad-faith bargaining charge against the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB) on March 2 in response to an all-staff email sent by the CRA regarding negotiations on Feb. 14.

 

Taxation Employee Union Files ‘bad Faith Bargaining’ Charge Against Cra As Psac Gears Up For Strike Votes

Mike Lapointe – https://www.hilltimes.com/2020/03/04/taxation-employee-union-files-bad-faith-bargaining-charge-against-cra-as-psac-gears-up-for-strike-votes/238262

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology is offering a voluntary departure program in order to reduce staffing costs and put the post-secondary in a more “sustainable position.”

According to two letters obtained by Postmedia written by NAIT president Ray Block, there is a potential for between seven and nine per cent, or between 190 and 240 NAIT staff, to be affected.

“The program will provide an opportunity for staff to volunteer to leave NAIT if they meet eligibility criteria. It is our hope that this will help to offset involuntary staff departures,” Block wrote in a letter dated Feb. 24.

The second letter, dated March 2, says the move comes after the provincial government’s fall budget caused a “major reset” to the institution, which is pushing for a transformation plan that will find $50-million in savings. The plan includes reducing expenses and growing revenues, in part through increased enrolment and tuition increases.

The Feb. 24 letter states the salaries and benefits for NAIT’s employees make up nearly 70 per cent of expenses. The polytechnic believes a “fair first step” is to reduce staff costs by a voluntary departure program.

The proposed job losses affect the entire range of NAIT’s 2,700 staff, which include full-time, part-time and casual workers. Those interested can apply to the voluntary departure program from March 2 to March 18. The Board of Governors will vote on April 2, where the final number on staff cuts and decisions on the transformation plan will be made.

“It is clear that every area of NAIT will be impacted in some way, but it is my hope that as we take on these financial pressures and address technology advancements that our strategic intent and rationale for the bold decisions being made can be clearly understood,” Block wrote on Feb. 24.

The biggest concern for Garry Wilson, president of NAIT’s Academic Staff Association which represents more than 950 academic staff, is the departure program will target academic staff.

“I’m hoping they’re not going to try to make up a lot of their budget shortfalls on the backs of academic staff. We know there’s a lot of administrative bloat here and we’re hoping that this program is designed to help that be alleviated,” Wilson said.

In a statement, NAIT spokesman Bryan Alary confirmed the number of potential staff cuts and said funding decreases in the past two provincial budgets have put a “significant pressure” on NAIT. The institution expects to receive a total reduction of about $11.2-million to their Campus Alberta and Targeted Enrolment grants.

“Our leadership team has been working with all areas of the polytechnic to identify and evaluate various options to reduce costs and grow revenues,” Alary said. “Even with these voluntary measures, difficult decisions must be made to further reduce spending.”

But with the prospect of staff leaving, the fallout can be higher workloads and more stress, especially on instructors in smaller programs.

“If you had a program that only has six or seven instructors in it, a lot of those instructors, if they’re sick, they’re coming into work because they know if they don’t come into work, there’s nobody to take their place, which increases the workload on their colleagues, which puts a lot of stress on them,” Wilson said, adding it leads to burnout.

About six or seven years ago, Wilson said, NAIT offered an early retirement buyout for those who had been at the institution for a number of years.

“The issue they ran into that one was they realized they let a lot of people go and then had to start hiring people back two months, three months later,” Wilson said.

“There’s going to be a lot of careful consideration of who’s going to go because they’re not looking to replace anybody who’s gone here. But it’s the old adage that we’re going to have to do more with less.”

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees represents 1,266 staff at NAIT, including support staff and lab assistants. Susan Slade, vice-president of the AUPE said the cuts are another hit to Albertans.

“Any cuts will directly affect, especially cuts of this magnitude, the education that students will be getting,” Slade said.

“That just means the other people that are left behind are working three or four positions instead so that does affect the level of quality that you get of the education for sure.”

Slade said it also doesn’t make sense the province is promoting trades, yet the budgets have been affecting trade schools.

“How are you promoting the trades when people won’t even be able to get into that trade? They’re talking from one end, like one side and out the other, it just doesn’t make any sense,” Slade said.

In a statement, Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said staff reductions are never easy and it will be a challenging time for individuals and families affected.

“This does not mean we place less value in skilled trades, on the contrary, we believe in establishing a parity of esteem, where a trades certificate has the same value, merit and worth as a university degree,” Nicolaides said.
“We are doing this through our robust skills for jobs agenda, as outlined in our platform we are investing over $80 million over four years to the skilled trades and apprenticeship learning.”

On Friday, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology announced 230 positions would be eliminated — 80 of which are vacancies that won’t be filled. The decision was made in wake of provincial budget cuts.

 

Nait Offers Voluntary Departure Program For Up To 240 Staff in Cost-saving Effort

Shaughn Butts – https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/nait-offers-voluntary-departure-program-for-staff-in-cost-saving-effort

 

The president of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology has announced 230 positions will be eliminated at the post-secondary institution.

In an email widely circulated Friday on social media, SAIT president and CEO David Ross said the job losses are a result of cuts in the October 2019 provincial budget.

“Although we have implemented cost reductions across almost every area, we have come to the difficult decision we need to eliminate a total of 230 positions,” reads the email.

In an emailed statement, SAIT spokesman Chris Gerritsen said the decision to lay off staff was hard for the institution.

“With the impact of the Government of Alberta’s budget cuts to the post-secondary sector announced last October, and reinforced in the government’s 2020 budget, our senior leadership has taken time to carefully review all possibilities to create a balanced budget that mitigates impact on the quality of instruction and student success,” read the statement.

“So, the difficult decision was made to eliminate a total of 230 positions, beginning next week through to the end of May, which includes 80 vacancies that won’t be replaced. These staff reductions are accompanied by spending cuts in other areas such as capital spending and administrative supports.”

Gerritsen said the school is committed to moving forward with “a strategy grounded in sustainable growth.” He also says the school is looking at developing independent revenue streams.

Among the eliminated jobs, 98 of them are Alberta Union of Provincial Employees positions, including 30 vacant union contracts that will not be filled.

The remaining job cuts are either represented by the SAIT Academic Faculty Association (SAFA) or are casual or contract positions.

“Government decided that they were going to cut significantly to the public sector while at the same time giving a $4.7-billion tax break to corporations that quite frankly aren’t interesting in investing in Alberta,” said Bobby-Joe Borodey, the AUPE vice-president representing the Calgary region.

 

Sait To Eliminate 230 Positions, Citing Cuts in Funding By Ucp

Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia – https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/sait-eliminating-230-positions-in-wake-of-provincial-budget-cuts

A tentative agreement has been reached between Trent University and hundreds of its part-time instructors in Peterborough.

In a tweet on Friday morning, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3908 (Unit 1) said a new tentative agreement was reached early Friday and a planned Sunday rally was cancelled.

The union says it represents 537 part-time instructors who are contract workers with positions ranging from teachers and laboratory assistants to grade markers, academic counsellors and workshop leaders. The university earlier this month claimed the local represents 312 instructors.

The union’s contract expired on Aug. 31, 2019, and members in January voted in favour of job action and labour action — either a strike or lockout — which could have occurred on or around March 2. The parties were scheduled to reconvene for bargaining on Feb. 19.

Terms of the tentative agreement have not been released but a key issue was job security, since the union claimed part-time instructors are laid off every four months and must re-apply for their positions. The university stated contracts can extend up to three years.

“Thank you to everyone for your support, planned attendance, social media presence, and for contacting the employer directly,” the union stated. “This tentative agreement wouldn’t have been possible without you!”

Trent University confirmed the tentative settlement on a new collective agreement with the assistance of mediator Gerry Lee.

“Both teams have agreed to recommend the tentative settlement to their respective parties,” the university stated Friday morning. “It is expected that CUPE Local 3908 unit 1 will set a date with its members to ratify the agreement. The settlement is also subject to ratification by the university’s board of governors. Details of the tentative agreement will be released after ratification by both parties.”

Part-time Instructors Reach New Tentative Deal with Trent University: Union

Gdavischex – https://globalnews.ca/news/6608175/part-time-instructors-new-deal-trent-university-union/

The board of governors at the University of British Columbia and the UBC Faculty Association have signed a collective bargaining agreement under the government’s Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate.

The agreement covers around 4,200 faculty members at the University of British Columbia and the UBC Okanagan campus. The UBC Faculty Association represents professors, instructors, lecturers, sessional lecturers, librarians and program directors in extended learning.

The agreement includes:

  •  a three-year term (July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2022)
  •  general wage increases of two per cent per year for the three-year contract
  •  modest funding increases for professional development of full faculty and sessional lecturers to further enhance learning for students, research innovations and productivity

The Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate supports the government’s commitment to improving the services people count on, making life more affordable and investing in sustainable economic growth, the province said in a press release.

The mandate is consistent with B.C.’s commitment to balanced budgets and sound fiscal management.

Currently, about 240,000 public-sector employees are now covered by tentative or ratified agreements reached under B.C.’s Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate.

 

University Of British Columbia and Faculty Sign Collective Agreement

Darrianglb – https://globalnews.ca/news/6600983/ubc-faculty-sign-collective-agreement/

Your negotiating team met with the employer on February 25 and 26 to begin bargaining for a new collective agreement.

We submitted a full package of proposals which puts job security, work-life balance, and safe and healthy workplaces first.

The employer also submitted a full package, one filled with rollbacks and concessions that shows they do not value AHS Nursing Care workers.

We are deeply disappointed not only by what the employer has proposed, but also by their negative tone and the disrespect they are showing towards health care professionals.

Employer Tables Rollbacks

The employer is asking for a four-year contract expiring March 31, 2024, including zero per cent wage adjustments for all four years.

While they are asking for zeroes in terms of your wages, they are seeking huge monetary concessions in other ways, including the following major rollbacks to shift differentials and weekend premiums:

  • Evening shift differential cut from $2.75 to $1.86 per hour;
  • Night shift differential cut from $5 to $2.85 per hour;
  • Weekend premium cut from $3.25 to $2.34 per hour;
  • Changing the starting hour for the evening shift differential from 1500 hours to 1900 hours;
  • Cutting the window for weekend premiums from 64 hours to 48 hours (from 1500 hours on Fridays to 0000 hours on Saturdays).

Differentials are paid to compensate us for lost family time. Most children return home from school at about 1500 hours, so that’s when differentials for lost family time should begin. These rollbacks would take differential rates back to what they were over a decade ago and would deny us the compensation we deserve for lost family time.

Other rollbacks include cutting Flexible Spending Accounts from $1,100 to $850 and getting rid of overtime for super-stats and holidays. Some members are even being asked for up to 20% in salary rollbacks.

Your negotiating team has been clear: we will not take concessions, especially while the government is underfunding Alberta Health Services in order to usher in American-style private for-profit health care.

Instead, we proposed the government raise the corporate tax rate back up by 1% and using the revenue to properly fund Alberta Health Services, including a 3% increase in the first year and a 2.5% increase in the next.

The employer also included a proposal which states: “Reasonable conduct and feedback by supervisors relating to the management and performance of Employees is not harassment.”

In response, we tabled a counterproposal which defines abuse of authority as intimidations, threats, or coercion which endangers a worker’s ability to do their job, economic livelihood, and physical and emotional well-being.

By tabling these proposals and more, AHS has shown it has no respect for the work we do and the role we play in delivering quality health care to all Albertans.

Next Meeting Dates

Our next meeting dates are scheduled for March 18 and 19. Your team is dedicated to working for you at the bargaining table and we will share more updates with you as bargaining continues.

Update your contact information at www.aupe.org/updateinfo so you never miss a bargaining update or other union news.

Be strong, support each other, and share this information with your fellow AHS NC workers. Please contact a member of your negotiating team or AUPE resource staff if you have any questions.

Ahs Nursing Care Bargaining Update: Locals 41, 43, 44, 45, 46

https://www.aupe.org/news/news-and-updates/ahs-nursing-care-bargaining-update-locals-41-43-44-45-46

All Ontario education unions will strike on Friday, February 21. This is the first time since the political protest of 1997 that teachers and education workers from Ontario’s main education affiliates will all be out of their classrooms on the same day.Below please find an online solidarity letter. The letter has so far received close to a thousand signatures from Ontario academics and post-secondary educators in support of the teachers and education workers. Please consider signing the online letter to help amplify the message and demonstrate national support for education funding.

You can find information regarding the ongoing strikes and picket line locations here:

For more information read an article published in the Timmons Daily Press:

Teachers ramp up strike action; All four unions in are engaged in job action for the first time in 20 years. De Luigi, Elena.Daily Press; Timmins, Ont. [Timmins, Ont]12 Feb 2020: A.3.

“The six-day strike of full- and part-time faculty and librarians at Mount Allison University has ended with a negotiated settlement.

….

Details of the tentative agreements will be shared with the membership early this week. A ratification vote will follow. Until then, no details of the tentative agreements will be released to the public.

Issues in dispute during the strike included accommodation for faculty and librarians with disabilities, job security and compensation for part-time faculty and librarians, workload, and resources for the academic mission.”

Read the full press release here.

Read the full Alberta Bargaining Update for January 2020 here

This resource provides a monthly update on wage details by employers in the post-secondary education sector. It is available here.

“Administration and faculty at the University of Northern British Columbia have a name in mind when it comes to agreeing on an arbitrator to break the impasse in reaching a new contract.

“The parties actually came to an agreement on an arbitrator before the end of last year,” UNBC spokesman Matt Wood said this week. “However, that individual still has to be approached to ensure they will take on the work. Once we have that process complete, we can start talking about the actual arbitration process, dates, etc.”

Read the full article here: Sides in Unbc Labour Dispute Agree on Arbitrator

Citizen staff – https://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/news/local-news/sides-in-unbc-labour-dispute-agree-on-arbitrator-1.24050499

Teachers and nurses will not be receiving any new wage increases after arbitration rulings came down Friday. The rulings come after the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the United Nurses of Alberta were hoping for wage increases and the province sought a two to five per cent rollback.

…..

ATA president Jason Schilling said Friday going into the arbitration hearing they were hoping for a three per cent increase for each year of the contract. “I am extremely frustrated and angry at this decision. I think the association had a really strong argument in the arbitration process and I was confident that we would see a reasonable increase to our salaries,” Schilling said. Since 2012, Alberta teachers have received only one new wage increase to their general salaries.

….

The arbitration hearings with the UNA — which represents more than 30,000 registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses and other health-care workers — were held on Dec. 4 and 5 in Edmonton. In his judgement, arbitrator David Jones — who was also the arbitrator in the ATA’s hearing — wrote, “no change to wage rates is justified in the third year of the current collective agreement, particularly given the prevailing general economic conditions in the province, as well as the current comparative continuity and stability of nurses’ employment and the absence of any relevant other public sector settlements that would indicate either an increase or a decrease to salaries.”

Read the full article here:  ‘Extremely frustrated and angry:’ Zero Wage Increases For Teachers, Nurses in Arbitration Rulings

Shaughn Butts – https://edmontonjournal.com/news/politics/extremely-frustrated-and-angry-zero-wage-increases-for-teachers-nurses-in-arbitration-rulings

In 2010, the Ontario government told pharmacy technicians they would be regulated by the Ontario College of Pharmacists. Now, after a hard fought battle to demonstrate that value to employers, wages will finally reflect the increase in accountability.

On January 6, arbitrator Diane Gee awarded a six per cent wage increase for OPSEU registered pharmacy technician members in 60 bargaining units from hospitals across Ontario. The decision is retroactive to June 30, 2016.

“This award is long overdue,” says OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “These members had to dig into their own pockets to bring their qualifications up to the highest standards but were then told they didn’t deserve increased compensation. This was not acceptable and OPSEU fought for what was right and now these essential health care workers are being paid what they deserve.”

Read the full article here: Arbitrator awards OPSEU pharm techs big wage increase

https://opseu.org/news/arbitrator-awards-opseu-pharm-techs-big-wage-increase/99720/

According to a recent study by the Centre For Economic and Policy Research looking into paid vacation and holiday time in countries across the industrialized world, Canada currently ranks near the bottom of the list.

The average Canadian worker only receives 10 paid vacation days each year, tying Canada for second last out of 21 OECD countries in North America, Europe and Asia.

Capture

Read the full article here: Two weeks off each year is bad for your health and bad for the economy

https://pressprogress.ca/canadian-workers-get-fewer-paid-vacation-days-than-nearly-any-other-country-in-the-industrialized-world/

“The head of the Alberta Medical Association says it’s preparing for a court fight after the province cancelled its master agreement this week and announced a new pay and benefits deal.

“Absolutely we are taking legal action,” Dr. Christine Molnar said Friday in an interview. “I see this as a fundamental violation of our right for representation.”

She said that denying doctors binding arbitration is violating their rights under the Canada Health Act and the charter.

“We wanted to work collaboratively with the government to get sustainable health care for Albertans.”

Molnar said different legal firms are exploring a possible challenge, but it may be difficult. While the AMA bargains for doctors, it is not a union.

“We are not protected under labour legislation. And so nothing we do legally is going to be easy, that’s for sure,” she said.

Molnar made the comments a day after Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Alberta was terminating the master agreement, even though the current deal doesn’t end until March 31.

Shandro said the current $5.4-billion yearly compensation for doctors won’t change. But he said new fee and billing rules will be put in place April 1 to prevent an estimated extra $2 billion being added in the next three years to the physician budget.

The United Conservative government had said the changes are manageable because Alberta doctors make more than physicians in other provinces, taking in almost $390,000 in gross clinical earnings in 2018-19 — $90,000 more than doctors in Ontario.

BY DEAN BENNETT THE CANADIAN PRESS Posted February 21, 2020 5:46 pmUpdated February 21, 2020 8:55 pm. https://globalnews.ca/news/6581960/alberta-doctors-court-fight-ucp-contract/



The union says about 90 per cent of members cast votes in support of sanctions, and turnout was nearly 97 per cent.  Federation president Patrick Maze said Monday the union will provide 48 hours of notice if there are severe sanctions such as a walkout.

Funding and classroom supports are key issues in the labour dispute.

“Classroom complexity is an issue that needs to be resolved. It needs to resolved in the collective agreement,” he said.

“Government needs to show resolve and they need to step up to their responsibility to fund education.”

Maze said the federation is to meet Tuesday with Saskatchewan’s education minister.

Carla Beck, education critic for the NDP Opposition, said teachers and students are concerned about a possible labour disruption.

She said the education minister needs to show the government is serious about addressing issues of class size and composition, which teachers have raised as a problem.

“I’m not sure that there’s an appetite to balance the budget on the backs of our kids.”

In a statement, deputy minister of education Rob Currie says Tuesday’s meeting will be to discuss class size and composition, and teachers are welcome back at the bargaining table.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2020

The Canadian Press, Feb 24, 2020. https://www.timescolonist.com/saskatchewan-teachers-vote-in-favour-of-job-action-over-contract-dispute-1.24082751

“A court challenge to the provincial government’s public-sector wage-control bill has entered its final stage.

Closing arguments began Tuesday in the lawsuit by more than two dozen unions against the Public Services Sustainability Act, which was passed by the Manitoba legislative assembly in 2017 but never proclaimed into law.

Even before the closing arguments began, however, there was controversy when a lawyer acting on behalf of organized labour asked the trial judge to strike references the government’s final court submission to a bill before the legislature that would amend the PSSA.

Government lawyers should have raised Bill 9 during the evidence phase of the trial — where it would have faced scrutiny — instead of leaving it to their closing submission, said union lawyer Garth Smorang.

“The position of the plaintiffs (the unions) is that the document should not, therefore, be before the court in any respect,” he told Madam Justice Joan McKelvey of Court of Queen’s Bench.

The new bill is part of the PSSA’s legislative history, and is “unlikely” the PSSA in its current form will become law, responded government lawyer Michael Conner.

The PSSA mandates a two-year wage freeze as each new public-sector collective agreement is negotiated. Wage increases are limited to 0.75 per cent and one per cent in the third and fourth years, respectively, of any new deals.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour and 28 unions representing more than 110,000 workers are asking the court to strike down the legislation, introduced as Bill 28 nearly three years ago. They argue it is unconstitutional, as it unfairly denies free collective bargaining.

In November, the government said in its opening statement before the court that the PSSA, which received royal assent on June 2, 2017, may never become law and “is having no legal effect on anyone.”

A month earlier, the government sought to adjourn the trial, as it introduced a bill that would have amended the unproclaimed legislation. It later withdrew the adjournment request, and the bill died on the order paper when the session ended.

The new bill (reintroduced in November) would provide the government with more flexibility in how it implements its wage-control legislation.

It would give the provincial cabinet discretion to exempt a collective agreement or portions of an agreement from the law if, for example, the government needed to pay higher wages to attract certain types of workers.

However, the main provisions of the PSSA would remain.

According to the Manitoba Federation of Labour, there are 111,651 workers who are members of the unions involved in the lawsuit. Of those, only 8,865 have reached a collective agreement since Bill 28 was passed.

Most members of the Manitoba Nurses Union, for instance, have been without a contract since March 2017. The collective agreement between the province and its nearly 13,000 civil servants expired in March 2019.

Those who have signed collective agreements following the PSSA’s dictates have done so under duress, said MFL president Kevin Rebeck.

If organized labour wins its lawsuit, he expects those unions will demand to go back to the bargaining table to negotiate wages, he said.

“Our hope and expectation is that the judge gives clear direction that returning to the bargaining table is part of the appropriate remedy,” Rebeck said Tuesday.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca”

https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/wage-control-bill-court-challenge-nears-end-567985582.html

THUNDER BAY – Talks have broken down between the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Assocation and the province.

OECTA president Liz Stuart on Monday said it means the union’s job action will continue and further strike action is an option.

The union cancelled planned rotating strikes this week after a mediator called both sides back to the table, but Stuart said it’s clear the province doesn’t want a deal anytime soon and is more focused on tossing insults at teachers and education workers who are exercising their democratic right to strike.

“After the minister of education spent the weekend making baseless, inflammatory accusations about Catholic teachers and our association, his bargaining team held firm to their agenda to take resources out of the classroom. At times, it seems they have no real intention of negotiating an agreement,” Stuart said in a releaase.

Stuart went on to say the teachers’ association remains committed to reach a fair deal and will await to hear if the mediator believes further negotiations will be worthwhile.

“However, we will not tolerate the government’s disrespect for our members, or their insistence on making permanent cuts to publicly funded education. While our administrative job action continues, OECTA will also be considering options for further strike action,” Stuart said.

OECTA is one of four teacher and education worker unions in a labour battle with the province.

Earlier on Monday the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario announced it would escalate strike action into what it’s deeming Phase 6 of its strike protocol if a deal isn’t reached.

That would mean union members would continue to not fill in for any absences that would normally be filled by occasional teachers or education workers, upload data related to assessments or use personal funds to pay for classroom supplies.

“ETFO is asking the government to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate an agreement by Friday, March 6,” said union president Sam Hammond.

“The Ford government has an opportunity to ensure stability in elementary schools. If the government ignores this opportunity and chooses labour disruption instead, ETFO will move to its Phase 7 Strike Protocol on Monday, March 9, 2020.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he remains committed to reach a deal that keeps students in class and certainty to parents.

“The safety and security of our students are of the utmost importance to this government. I hope that ETFO will work with school boards to ensure that the escalated work-to-rule measures do not risk student safety and security,” Lecce said in a statement “That is why our government is squarely focused on getting a deal that ends the continuous escalation by teachers’ union leaders, so our kids remain in class.

“Our government wants to see investments in education helping our students, not increasing compensation and enhancing already generous benefits packages.”

All four major teachers’ unions walked off the job this past Friday.

https://www.tbnewswatch.com/local-news/catholic-teachers-to-continue-job-action-after-talks-break-down-2116439

Ontario’s public elementary school teachers are changing direction in their job action, temporarily moving away from weekly strikes that shuttered schools to refusing to cover for absent colleagues if a supply teacher is unavailable.

The much-anticipated “Phase 6” job action protocol does not involve any strikes this week or next, which means English public elementary schools will remain open after three weeks of disruption.

However, Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), warned that job action would escalate in two weeks if an agreement with the government isn’t reached. For two weeks earlier this month, schools were closed twice a week because of a weekly provincewide strike accompanied by rotating strikes that hit every public board on a certain day. A mass provincewide strike on Friday shuttered all publicly funded schools.

Under the new job action, which will take effect on Wednesday, teachers will not fill in for colleagues who leave midway through the day or if there’s no supply teacher available. It is not uncommon for teachers to cover other classrooms or temporarily take on additional students in their own room if a colleague is absent.

ETFO’s new strategy will put a “different kind of pressure” on the government to return to the bargaining table, Mr. Hammond said, adding that it includes pickets outside schools for 20 minutes at least one day a week that wouldn’t affect learning and sending letters to school trustees and MPPs.

Unlike strikes that shut down the school system and force parents to find childcare, the job action will target school boards, which will likely have difficulty filling positions.

Many school boards struggle to find enough supply teachers, an issue that is most acute in northern and rural communities. The new sanctions would mean that principals are left to teach the class. If it’s more than one class, students would likely have to be moved to the gym or library, creating potentially unsafe conditions and taking principals away from their other duties, according to Nancy Brady, president of the Ontario Principals’ Council.

“If school boards and this government do not understand how every single educator pitches in to make public education work, frankly they are about to find out,” Mr. Hammond told reporters.

Cathy Abraham, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, said the job action will create “challenges” for senior staff.

“Clearly it’s going to create some hardship for administration to try and figure out how we’re going to keep all kids safe,” Ms. Abraham said.

ETFO is the country’s largest union with 83,000 teachers and education workers. The union had told its members last week that it would be announcing new job action on Monday, but no details were provided.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement on Monday that he hopes “ETFO will work with school boards to ensure that the escalated work-to-rule measures do not risk student safety and security.”

Teachers and education workers have been without a contract since the end of August, and tensions with the government have risen in recent months. On Friday, all publicly funded schools were shuttered as the four main education unions took part in the first ever provincewide legal strike.

The issues for the various unions include class-size increases in high school, mandatory online courses for high-school students and a hiring regulation that gives supply teachers with more seniority an edge in getting chosen for long-term occasional and permanent teaching positions.

Benefits also remain a major sticking point, and one that led to a recent breakdown in talks between ETFO and the government. Those familiar with ETFO’s plan say benefits have been in some financial difficulty. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

But government negotiators said they would consider increases to funding negotiated in a previous contract for teaching supports in special education and other learning needs as long as the union abandoned its benefits funding proposal, according to a bulletin sent to ETFO members earlier this month.

ETFO’s three days of renewed talks with the government broke off earlier this month, and despite strike action, there has been no indication from either side of returning to the bargaining table.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association said in a statement on Friday evening, shortly after the provincewide strike, that it would be pausing its rotating one-day strikes planned for this week after the mediator called all parties back to the bargaining table on Monday. The talks, however, ended late Monday with the union telling its members in a memo that the government’s negotiation team came to the table “with the same proposals to take resources out of the classroom.”

CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-schools-open-this-week-in-new-phase-of-teachers-strike-protocol/

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